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Out of the Cold by Giselle Renarde

Out of the Cold

by Giselle Renarde

eXcessica Publishing

eBook ISBN: 9781609826819

Geeky Amira is desperate for fun when she meets Keith at a first aid course. After exchanging naughty emails, they plan a get-together on New Year’s Eve… but the man who shows up isn’t Keith! Will Amira ring in the New Year with her online romance, or be left out in the cold?

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Chapter One

The cruel black cursor blinked like an impatient insect on Amira’s stark white screen. It counted off the seconds, the minutes, the hours she’d wasted in front of her computer.
She stared at it. That’s all she could do. Just stare. As badly as she wanted to write to him, she wavered like a pendulum. What if he didn’t like her? Or worse yet, what if he didn’t remember her at all? Nothing could be more embarrassing than writing to a real cutie and getting a response like, Who are you and what do you want? Keith didn’t seem like the kind of guy who would jump at an invitation from just any old floozy. From what Amira could tell, it would take a special kind of floozy to win him over.
They’d met one week earlier at a first aid training course. Amira hated taking classes like that—especially alone, when she couldn’t hide behind her sister or one of her friends—but she needed the certification for work.
When she got there forty-five minutes early, it was a huge to relief to find someone else had arrived even earlier. It could be super-embarrassing, getting to a class even before the instructor. When somebody else was already in the room, she didn’t feel like such a big loser.
And if that somebody happened to be a lanky strand of eye candy, so much the better. Amira never went for your typical cool guys or hockey jocks, not even back when she was young. Young-er, her auntie always corrected. Tall and dark she could handle, but handsome was seriously over-rated. So were bleach-blonde skater dudes. Highly over-rated.
But just because she found the messy-haired boy behind the sci-fi paperback incredibly cute—and just because they were the only two people in the room for a good twenty minutes—didn’t mean she could actually work up the nerve to say anything to him. She pretended to read her own paperback, every so often glancing up over the pages to see if he was looking at her. If he was, she would look straight back down into her book. If he seemed to be reading, she gazed adoringly at him until the next time he looked up. Amira could write a journal article on the courtship rituals of bookworms.
Even when the room filled with participants, who obviously didn’t want to waste their first day of Christmas vacation at a training course, the only person on her radar was the cute boy across the room. She wondered how obvious she was about her crush. Apparently, obvious enough that when it came time to practice the Heimlich maneuver, their militaristic instructor Sheila paired them up. Exactly how doe-y were her doe-eyes?
Poor Keith seemed really self-conscious about wrapping his arms around her. It didn’t help that he had to do it while a room full of spectators looked on. But Ms. Militia hollered like a drill sergeant. “Get a good, tight grasp around your partner!”
Boy, did he ever!
“This is life or death, people,” Sheila had cried as he pressed on Amira’s belly. “Life or death!”
The woman was nuts, but every time she screamed, Keith held Amira tighter. She thought her whole body might just melt and slip from his grasp. She never would have imagined feeling so safe in a pair of skinny little arms, but it turned out they were much stronger than they looked. His scent was familiar. One part soap, one part laundry detergent, and two parts science geek. She swooned, but he held her upright.
Ever since that fateful December day, she couldn’t stop thinking about him. Keith’s body had been so close behind her she could still feel it there at times. Her skin sizzled. Her breath fluttered. Her auntie asked if she was feeling sickish.
“What? Sick?” she asked. Of course she felt sick—lovesick! Family never understood. “No, Auntie, I’m fine. Tired, maybe. I’ll go to bed early tonight.”
Her auntie, sister, and cousins all stared at her from around the dinner table. She tried not to miss meals. Since she’d moved into her auntie’s basement apartment, the family wondered what’s up with that girl? any time she didn’t eat with them. They always mistook emotion for illness. She couldn’t wait to steal back to her own space and daydream in peace.
Even just thinking back over the time they spent with his long arms wrapped around her curves made her ecstatic. It was too bad they didn’t get to practice mouth-to-mouth on each other. That would have been nice. But no, they used a dummy for that nowadays.
By the time their first aid class was over, Amira was burning up inside. She wondered if Keith felt it too, but how could she possibly ask? When she opened her mouth, silence fell out. Anxiety won, as usual. He left.
For a few sad seconds, Amira thought all was lost, and then she caught sight of the registration list on Sheila’s table. How sleazy would it be to sneak a peek at Keith’s personal information? All she really wanted was his email address. And it’s not like she was going to spam him or anything. Was it really such a big deal?
Amira grabbed a pen from her purse and scrawled the address on the inside of her arm, then set a direct course for the exit. Though her body was burning up already, she put on her knit scarf, hat, mitts, and baby blue pea coat. Out into the cold of another Canadian winter.
Big, chunky flakes fell in wet clumps, melting against her hot cheeks. It wasn’t the cold that bothered her. Mostly, she hated that it got dark at four in the afternoon. No wonder Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s all fell around the time of year when the sun was at its most evasive. Imagine how desperate the population would become without all the little twinkle lights and giant glowing orbs that kissed the cityscapes of North America.
It was a mild snowfall that day, Amira reflected as she stared at the whiteness of her computer screen. Packing snow, Canadians called it. Why did they call it that? Probably because it was the only kind of snow you could pack together to build a snowman. They should call it snowman snow. She laughed at herself as she eased back in her chair. Naming the snow, eh Amira? Well, she’d already exhausted every other avenue of procrastination.
All week, she’d postponed making contact. Not today; it’s Christmas Eve. Wouldn’t want to interrupt his Christmas dinner. Can’t now, it’s Boxing Day. When she pictured Keith’s large hazel eyes contoured with thick, long lashes, and imagined standing on tip-toes to kiss him, she was more determined than ever. His caring eyes could melt the icicles from the eaves. She imagined those eyes staring back at her from the computer screen. The time was nigh. Now, where to begin?
 
Hello Keith.
 
No, too formal.
 
Hey Keith.
 
No, too casual.
 
Hi Keith.
 
Yes, that was perfect! Pulling her curly hair into a ponytail, she stared at the body of her email. Okay, so she had the first two words. What next?
 
Hi Keith,
My name is Amira. We met last week at the first aid training session. I was just wondering if maybe you might remember me?
 
Man, this attempt at flirtation was “like, so totally boring,” as her little sister would say. Amira scrapped it all and started over.
 
Hi Keith,
Amira here, from the first aid course. I’m sure you must remember me, because I can’t stop thinking about you.
 
Well, how was that for ridiculous? There was no way good, quiet, respectable Amira could send anything so silly. It wasn’t her.
Although, come to think of it, good, quiet, respectable Amira never had much fun, did she? And why not? Because she was too afraid of looking foolish? Of being turned down? What kind of a reason was that to always play it safe? Everybody needed a little bit of fun in life, and after years of self-denial, she was desperately craving amusement. Why not, just this once, tell someone what she was really thinking? If Keith thought she was a total moron, that was fine. She would probably never see him again anyway. But if Keith had the same thing in mind, Amira’s life might just become a lot more exciting…

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